WERE YOU STILL HOLDING HER?

Tanzan Hara was a famous Zen monk of the Meiji Period. He was also a Buddhist scholar and became the first lecturer in Indian philosophy at Tokyo University and was elected a member of the Japan Academy. He died in 1892 at the age of seventy-four, and he knew the day before that he was going to die. Twenty minutes before his eyes closed for the last time he wrote postcards to his close friends which said, “I will soon die. At this time I would like to inform you to that effect.” And even though he is famous for having died while sitting in the meditation posture, he had shown unusual qualities from his youth.

As a young pilgrim monk he traveled country roads with a close friend, and one day the two of them came to a shallow and narrow river. But there was no bridge, and they were going to have to wade across. By chance they saw a beautiful young lady who was hesitating to wade through the stream, and Tanzan offered, “Here, I’ll carry you across. Hold on to my shoulders tightly. All right?” and lightly holding the girl he carried her across.

The girl blushingly thanked Tanzan, but he, in his haste to catch up with his friend, did not hear her. The two monks walked about a mile in silence, and Tanzan’s friend appeared to be displeased. Suddenly the friend could contain himself no longer and bluntly said, “You’re a disgrace. Do you think monks should embrace girls?” He looked angry.

Tanzan, pretending not to understand, looked round about him and said, “What? Where is a girl?”

“Don’t go on pretending. You held a beautiful girl just a short while ago.”

“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha ― you mean that girl. I carried her across the river and put her down. Have you been carrying her in your mind all this way?”

Hearing this, the friend was at a loss for words.

In photography, if you snap the shutter, the next step is to wind the film. Otherwise, you will get a double exposure. Neither should we forget to wind the film of our minds as our surroundings change moment by moment.